- Steve Clarke gave Scotland their first qualification for an international competition in 23 years
- His team will start their UEFA EURO 2020 run against the Czech Republic
- Clarke discusses her job psychologically and bad habits
Very moved, with tears in his eyes and his face buried in his hands, Ryan Christie probably spoke for all Scots when he exclaimed: “Enough! I can’t take it anymore!” Scotland had just validated their UEFA EURO 2020 ticket after surviving an equalizer in added time and a grueling penalty shootout in Serbia, ending a 23-year absence in the final tournament. ‘a great tournament, in this case the FIFA World Cup France 1998 ™
“This qualification came at the right time because we were going through a very difficult period,” admits Steve Clarke, the Scottish coach, interviewed by FIFA.com. “The country was confined, we were in the middle of winter and there was not much to be happy about. A lot of people were starting to lose ground. The qualification and the joy it brought to our compatriots us have done a lot of good. “
“It was nice to see people smile again,” he continues. “This episode reminded us of the place football has in the hearts of Scots. It is popular around the world, but it has a place of its own here.”
Correct weaknesses, optimize strengths
Thanks to the sustained pace of the national vaccination program, supporters will also be celebrating, although their numbers will be reduced. On June 14 in Hampden, they will be there to cheer on their team against the Czech Republic for the opening of the EURO. “Even with 12,000 fans, I know the Tartan Army will set the mood in the stands, “said Clarke.” It’s important for the players too. They will be even more motivated. “
In search of balance, Scotland can count on its coach, discreet and reserved, to temper the enthusiasm of its players. A former international, Clarke studied as an assistant to big names like José Mourinho or Kenny Dalglish. Since his appointment in 2019, he has tried to correct the weak points and optimize the strengths of his players, without ever deviating from his measure or his rigor.
Confidence, performance, results
When he arrived, the squad was not lacking in talent, but it suffered from imbalances: there were two high-level full-backs on the left flank (Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney), strong central midfielders, but few attackers or convincing central defenders. Clarke has supported the development of the internationals already in place, while at the same time trying to convince Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams, born in Australia and England respectively, to join Scotland. Tactically, its flexible and pragmatic approach has proven its worth.
“I had to modify my system a little. Normally, I prefer to use a defense with four, but I found that a defense with three would be more effective, taking into account our qualities”, analyzes it. “I was also keen to bring Lyndon and Che into the squad. They allowed us to diversify our options on offense and expand the range of our options. The players who were already there saw that these arrivals pulled the plug. team up. This dynamic generates confidence, which generates better performance, which generates better results. “
In the absence of defensive midfielders Ryan Jack and Kenny McLean, injured just before the start of the EURO, Clarke will have to change his plans again. “We have other good midfielders, with other characteristics,” continues the coach, who has called Billy Gilmour and David Turnbull, two more attacking profiles, to replace them. “It’s up to me to find the right balance between defensive strength and creativity on offense. Anyway, to go far in this tournament, you will have to score goals.”
To see further
While Scotland have been delighted with this first finals in almost a quarter of a century, Clarke is already looking to the future, namely qualifying for the FIFA World Cup ™ and an important match in September in Denmark. “The results are encouraging, but there are still a few areas where we can make progress. That is why we are trying to make the most of the time we have now. This work will be useful for the Euro, but also in view of this fall’s qualifying matches. “
“Depending on the results in this streak – Denmark away, Moldova at home and Austria away – Scotland will have an indication of their possibility of returning to the world event.” When I was younger , Scotland’s presence in major competitions was obvious. The last two decades are there to remind us that everything can change very quickly “, tempers Clarke.” This is why it was important to participate in EURO and it is just as important to be part of the EURO. travel to Qatar. We must continue this momentum. Above all, I don’t want to see us fall back into our bad habits, like when we were resigned to no longer qualifying. The solution to avoid a relapse is to get a good Euro and validate our ticket for Qatar “, he concludes.